This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.
SALT LAKE CITY — When I was a kid and lived 1,500 miles away from my parents at a private school in Florida, I started smoking menthol cigarettes. The first cigarette I ever smoked was a Salem. I coughed my guts out, as every first-time smoker does, and then I had another one, and another, for twenty-five years.
I smoked mostly menthol cigarettes because they tasted cool, like ice, like menthol gum. In fact, I smoked Kool cigarettes for a while, which were the strongest cigarettes I ever smoked, before weaning myself back down to Salem, and then Salem lights. I started smoking when I was a kid in 1977 because I was lonely and wanted to be part of the group, the dumbest reason any kid ever starts smoking, although every reason is dumb.
I won’t share my sob story with you here about how hard it was to quit smoking. Let’s just say I tried cold turkey, patches, determination, pills, yoga, you name it. I’d get weeks, sometimes months under my belt, and then a particularly hard day would hit me, and I’d stop at 7-11 for a pack of smokes. Smoking felt like the only dependable friend I had in the universe.
That’s what addiction feels like, sounds like, to me.
What finally did it?
What finally worked was getting pregnant. The day I found out I was pregnant with another life inside me, that did it. When I reached for a cigarette I looked at it, and then threw it away. I could not, could NOT, put smoke in my body if it hurt the baby. I threw the rest of the pack away, and didn’t smoke again. I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times since, but nothing serious. Although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes I’ll walk past someone smoking on the street, and I inhale deeper.
To me – it smells good.
But here’s the point I wanted to make. President Biden is expected to announce a ban on menthol cigarettes this week. I say “Bravo!” Menthol is more popular with young people and, as it turns out, African Americans, so it affects those populations disproportionately.
It could be years before the ban takes effect because the tobacco companies will fight it again with, heaven knows what arguments this time. Haven’t they exhausted their arsenal of bad arguments defending cigarettes?
I am reminded of the story former Speaker of the House John Boehner tells about serving on the board of the Reynolds Tobacco Company. During a break of one of their board meetings, Boehner stepped outside for a smoke and another board member approached him.
You really smoke those things Boehner? You know they’ll kill you.”
Designed to kill
What has always killed me about cigarettes and allowing them to be sold is that this product, when used as it is intended, can kill people. Take another product, say a car or toy or fruit or vegetable – the second something goes wrong with it (that might kill people) it is yanked off the market as quick as you please, and we tell you about it immediately on the news.
Recalls! Emergency! Salmonella! But not cigarettes. When you use this product in the way it is intended to be used, it will kill you. No emergency. No story. You just buy it, and smoke it, and die.
So this former smoker who wasted twenty-five years of her life addicted to the foulest of products says “Bravo!” to banning menthol cigarettes. There is no good use for them. There is no safe amount of cigarette smoking. The world will be better off without them. Think of them as salmonella on a stick, on fire, in your mouth. Good riddance!
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